Useful Eclipse plugins for Java development

Last time I've been posting about how you can increase your java development speed by knowing and using common and handy keyboard shortcuts. This time I'll be showing you some plugins which I have used over the time. For most of them I can say that they not so much speed up development but instead raise the quality of your sourcecode by giving you hints or adding certain aspects to testing.

So let's dive in.

Subclipse and Subversive are with high probability the most-installed plugins for distributed development and source code versioning. As Eclipse still does not provide builtin functionality for this (because of some licensing issue), these plugins add the required connectors so that it becomes possible to synchronize your source with a SVN server. Both plugins provide everything needed for most of the SVN tasks and differ just in edge cases or the handling and UI details. I'm personally using Subversive for years now because it has a Checkout-Wizard with more functionality than Subclipse offers but that plugin also has evolved since I checked it the last time. I should give it a try again in the near future.

The JD-Eclipse plugin is a decomplier addon for Eclipse which helps you out if you happen to stumble into Java bytecode eg. during debugging or when you follow references into external libraries. It reconstructs the Java source from the compiled code, so what you get is not the real sourcecode but something which resembles exactly the same function. Nevertheless it's often interesting how the code behind the APIs works you're using. Or, if you're depending on other projects which are currently just closed in your workspace.

Findbugs is a static source-code-analysis tool which checks your sourcecode for common mistakes optimization potential. It covers a very wide range of different bug types and each found bug or issue in your sourcecode has a small description added. Of course, since it's a statical analysis this tool is unable to analyze the whole logic in your sourcecode and therefore may also generate false positives, so be sure to not blindly follow each suggestion. But it's usefulness in general is undeniable.

Also a static analysis is done by Checkstyle but this one focusses less on programming errors but more on the layout of the code and the correctness of the documentation. For example if your javadoc for a method is missing a new parameter which you just added, Checkstyle would highlight this mismatch for you. It has an extensive ruleset so don't be surprised if it makes annotations all over your code if you check it for the first time.

EclEmma and Coverlipse are two plugins which deal with identifying the runtime coverage of your code. They add measuring instruments which allow you to determine which parts of your code are reached by eg. unittests and which parts of your code are still untested and need additional attention. EclEmma is the simpler one of the two but also is faster to get started with. Coverlipse on the other side needs a bit more work to get started but allows deeper inspection and offers a wider range of statistics and visualizations of the covered and uncovered code.

Another tool to aid with testing is Infinitest. It analyzes your JUnit tests and runs them silently in the background after each change in your sourcecode. It adds some intelligence so that only those tests are run which could be influenced by your changes. Furthermore errors in the tests are directly displayed as source-errors in your sourcecode. Of couse, this is only useful if your testcases can be executed fast and do not need an extended time to execute. The plugin has moved from the free Google-Code project to a commercial website but as far as I can see, the plugin itself is for now still available without cost.

If you want to quickly set up a shared task repository for your small team without having to set up a full blown Bugzilla, maybe even with a touch of Scrum, Scrum Vision may be the tool for you. It connects the task management of Eclipse (Mylyn) with a Google spreadsheet which also can be shared with other instances of Eclipse for other developers. The IDE aligns with the Scrum methodology to support agile development. This alignment also propagates in the spreadsheet where you can display reports and have a virtual taskboard and also a Burndown Graph.

If you'd like to close editor tabs the same way as you do in Firefox, by middle-clicking the tab, the Middle Click Closes Tab plugin (although last updated for Eclipse 3.3, it still works with Galileo) enhances your Eclipse with this feature.

As for Mylyn, which is already completely integrated in Eclpse: Since my last post according Mylyn I collected some additional experience with Mylyn. I also connected it to a local instance of Bugzilla to play a bit around with its integration and how it deals with sharing files and context. But I also think that I should use it more again, as I've become a bit lazy with it and fallen back to the previous everything-on-the-screen overloaded development. The promised blog post which hasn't been posted until now is still on my list for the future, when I know even more about Mylyn. But I already can suggest Mylyn as a tool to leverage the development effectivity by helping the developer to focus on the actual task at hand. If you're curious, have a look at the excellent Mylyn 3.0 webcast to get started.

That's it for now. I hope, there is also something useful in this post which is helpful for your Java development with Eclipse.


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